Sunday, March 16, 2014


Have you ever been in the middle of making a recipe, then decided to completely change it?  That's how this meal came to be.  The original recipe was for simple and delicious spinach artichoke chicken, which we've had several times.  You place chicken breasts or tenders in a baking dish, then mix together spinach, artichokes, parmesan cheese and mayo, then spread it over chicken and bake. Easy.

BUT, as I was spreading the mixture over the chicken it suddenly became very obvious that the spinach dominated the dish and the chicken was basically invisible.  It wasn't a lot of chicken, and who wants to eat just forkfuls of spinach for dinner?  Usually in cases like these, I turn to my best friend: pasta.  And what do all delicious pasta dishes need?  That's right, a creamy dreamy cheese sauce.  Mozzarella seemed like a perfect match for spinach, and there just so happened to be half a block sitting in the fridge.  You guys, it was like fate.  Word of warning: this completely filled a 13x9 baking dish, so if you're not feeding a crowd, halve the recipe.

Boil about 3/4 a pound of pasta with kosher salt, reserving a cup or so of starchy, salty pasta water.  Mozzarella is a sturdy cheese, and when it's melted it still manages to keep its consistency pretty well.  Adding pasta water really helps to smoothly mix the ingredients together.

Make an easy roux with butter and flour, add milk, remove from heat and whisk in cheese.  Throw in some salt, pepper and crushed red pepper for flavor.

When chicken is done baking with spinach mixture, cut it apart in the baking dish and mix it all up.  Pour cooked pasta on top, then cheese sauce, and finally the pasta water.  Stir until combined, then sprinkle on some parmesan before the final bake.


1 lb boneless skinless chicken tenders or breasts
2 bags frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
2 cans artichoke hearts in water, drained rinsed and chopped
1 cup mayonnaise (or nonfat Greek yogurt)
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus 1/4 cup for topping
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 pound rotini pasta

Cheese sauce

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
2 cups shredded mozzarella
freshly ground black pepper
crushed red pepper

Preheat oven to 400.  Spray a 13x9 baking dish with cooking spray, then lay chicken flat without overlapping in dish.  Season with salt and pepper.  In large bowl, combine spinach, artichokes, mayonnaise, parmesan and garlic together.  Taste, add salt and pepper if needed.  Spread mixture over chicken.  Bake for 30-40 minutes, until chicken is done.  Remove from oven, cut apart chicken and mix with spinach.
Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente (it will cook a little more in the oven) and scoop out a cup of pasta water before draining.
For the cheese sauce: melt butter in saucepan over medium heat, then whisk in flour.  Keep whisking until thick and light brown/caramel colored, about 3-4 minutes.  Slowly pour in milk while whisking.  Keep stirring until it thickens and reaches a boil, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat, then stir in cheese.  Season with salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper.  Pour pasta on top of chicken spinach mixture, then pour cheese sauce all over.  Pour in hot pasta water and mix well.  Sprinkle 1/4 cup parmesan on top, then bake for 10 minutes.  Switch oven to high broil, then keep a close eye on it until it's slightly browned, about 5 more minutes. 

Note:  This recipe is super versatile.  I used what I had on hand.  If you love chicken, use more than a pound.  If you're not obsessed with pasta, use less.  Switch up the cheese.  If you're not a mayo fan, sub nonfat Greek yogurt.  Go wild!


  1. Saving this recipe so I can make it later! I need to go grocery shopping and try to find those artichoke hearts in a can. I don't recall seeing those. You think I could find them at Wal Mart?

    1. I've seen canned artichokes at most grocery stores; I'm sure Wal Mart carries them! Just make sure you get them in water, because the oil packed kind tends to be overly greasy. Hope you enjoy!